Site of former Brynhyfryd Mansion for sale
1 High Street, Blackstone
This is not a historic home as the house has since been demolished, but is a historic site nonetheless.
‘Brynhyfryd’ was a grand Italianate-style mansion built in 1889-1890 for Welshman Lewis Thomas, a coal mining pioneer. Along with Mr. J. Thompson, Mr. Thomas started his own coal mine in Blackstone in 1886. Its success made Mr. Thomas a very wealthy man, and he was able to construct his mansion at a cost of 13,000 pounds.
The 3-storey home had 49 rooms, a basement and a tower. The ground floor contained servants quarters, kitchen, dairy room, bathrooms (with an inside toilet) and dining rooms. The second floor had a large library, music room and guest quarters, while the third floor contained family bedrooms and private rooms.
The home was designed by Ipswich architect George Brockwell Gill.
It had imported marble fireplaces, cedar joinery and welsh slate floors and roofing. The slate roof was later replaced by an iron one following a storm.
The house was built with 600,000 hand-made bricks, sourced locally. It featured a passenger lift operated by a hydraulic water ram and a generator to run electric lights. In addition to the main house, there was also a billiards room, stables, gardener’s cottage and formal gardens.
In June 1900, Lord Lamington (Charles Cochrane-Baillie, 2nd Baron Lamington and Governor of Queensland), had tea with Mr. Thomas when he was visiting Ipswich.
Mr. Thomas knew of the rich coal seam running just a few feet below the surface of his property, but refused to mine underneath as it would have meant the demolition of his home. After his passing in 1913, his wife Ann, daughter Mary and her husband Thomas Bridson Cribb, continued to live in the home. Mary died in 1922, and after Ann’s death in 1930 the house was put up for sale. However, a home of such size and requiring such a large upkeep was not particularly desirable during the depression. Still, over 2,000 curious people inspected the home when it was open for inspection, and 1,200 people attended the auction. While the house was passed in, many of the furnishings were sold.
It was eventually sold to Rylance Collieries and Brickworks in 1934 who bought it for the sole purpose of mining the rich coal deposits underground. Rylance later auctioned off the mansion for demolition and removal in 1937. The buyer was Mr. Robert Rylance, a son of one of the proprietors of Rylance Collieries. He paid 310 pounds (approximately $25,000 in today’s terms) for the house – a fraction of its construction cost.
It was partially demolished, with many building materials being reused in other properties around Ipswich. The front doors were donated to the Blackstone Welsh Church, where they are still seen today. The lift well was made into the pulpit at St. Joseph’s Church in North Ipswich, and part of the balcony form the Church’s fence.
The ruins were left standing until 1960, when the last remnants of the home were removed as it had become a dangerous site due to mining activities below ground. In 1973, much of the area was cleared for housing development which never went ahead. According to the Ipswich City Council, the Blackstone community suffered from the effects of living on top of a coal mine. Subsidence, which was always a problem in the area, damaged the Old School of Arts and parts of the roadway as well as Thomas Street. Underground fires were devouring the remaining coal reserves under Brynhyfryd and the honeycombed ground began to subside.
Now, the site lays bare with only the odd hand-made brick or two leaving barely a reminder of the grand home that once stood. The underground mining has left subsidence and cave-ins. A heritage study on the site in 1991 reported that the old coal seam remained on fire far below the surface, with heat and smoke coming out of cracks in the ground.
While the grounds are overgrown, some of the large trees growing on the site may be those from the original terraced gardens.
The 41 hectare site was scheduled to be auctioned on October 14 but appears to remain on the market. The current seller paid $450,000 for the property in 2007.
Listing information via Realestate.com.au